Neighborhoods to Nucleotides—Advances and Gaps for an Obesity Disparities Systems Epidemiology Model
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Purpose of Review
Disparities in prevalence of obesity in the USA continue to increase. Here, we review progress and highlight gaps in understanding disparities in obesity with a focus on the Hispanic/Latino population from a systems epidemiology framework. We review seven domains: environment, behavior, biomarkers, nutrition, microbiome, genomics, and epigenomics/transcriptomics. We focus on recent advances that integrate at least two or more of these domains, and then provide a real-world example of data collection efforts that encompass these domains.
Research into discrimination-related DNA methylation patterns and how microbiome profiles are related to eating and physical activity behaviors is furthering understanding of why disparities in obesity persist. Environmental and neighborhood level research is uncovering the importance of exposures such as air and noise pollution and systematic or structural racism for obesity and related outcomes through behaviors such as sleep.
Obesity disparities and the biological processes associated with them must be better contextualized within the social, economic, and political environments that contribute to them. One avenue for accomplishing this is by modeling relationships between within-body mechanisms and omics and beyond-body mechanisms and exposures. However, data integration across the various domains and data collection are significant challenges for generating a comprehensive systems model for obesity disparities.
KeywordsHealth disparities Hispanic/Latino Obesity Systems epidemiology Environmental exposure Data integration
Funding for this research was provided by a grant from the National Institutes of Health, National Cancer Institute (R01 CA179977). The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institutes of Health. The Nucleotides to Neighborhoods study was a Demonstration Project in Systems Biomedicine supported by a grant from the University of California San Diego Center for Computational Biology and Bioinformatics and San Diego Center for Systems Biology.
Compliance with Ethical Standards
Conflict of Interest
Marta M. Jankowska, Kyle Gaulton, Rob Knight, Kevin Patrick, and Dorothy D. Sears each declare no potential conflicts of interest.
Human and Animal Rights and Informed Consent
This article does not contain any studies with human or animal subjects performed by any of the authors.
Papers of particular interest, published recently, have been highlighted as: • Of importance •• Of major importance
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